May 15, 2008
News paper coverage in New Bombay Plus (Times of India)

Times of India - Navi Mumbai Plus

20th September, 2007
Learn to say no
Workshop conducted on how to empower children and parents to deal with sexual abuse
J V R Gopal

The Rotary Club of Navi Mumbai (RCNM) recently conducted a workshop on Personal Safety of the Child at Rotary Centre, Vashi. A number of school teachers and parents from Navi Mumbai attended the event. Recently, the ministry of Women and Child Development released its first-ever National Study on Child Abuse in April, which revealed the stark reality that every second boy or girl faces sexual abuse in one or more forms at some point in his/her lives.

“It is a very scary scenario that every child is vulnerable to abuse, be it physical, verbal, emotional or sexual. Hence, we thought it appropriate to organise a workshop by NGO Arpan. The main focus of Arpan, which was founded by Pooja Taparia, is on spreading awareness on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). Arpan also provides professional help in dealing with all stages of support for victims of child abuse,” explained Surekha Mhatre, president, RCNM, in her welcome address.

Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is defined as any sexual act directed at a minor.

“It could be a sexual touch or fondle, sexually explicit talk or hint, exposure to sexual activity or pornography and finally rape or attempted rape,” said Pushpa Venkatraman, counsellor, Arpan, who conducted the workshop. In fact, according to the national study, 50 percent of sexual offenders were known to the victim or were in positions of trust, such as a family member, close relative, friend or neighbour.

“The study revealed that children in the age group of five to 12 years faced higher levels of abuse. What’s more, boys were equally at risk as girls. Sadly, most children suffer quietly. They don’t talk about the abuse. But we need to talk about it so that we can prevent and cure it,” explained Venkatraman.

CSA affects the child negatively, thereby causing many ill effects. “They include shame guilt and anger; fear shock and confusion; constant illnesses; future exploitative relationships; social with drawl and finally inappropriate sexualised behaviour,” added the counsellor.

The thrust of the workshop therefore was to create awareness about such behavioral changes in children among their parents.

“It is only then that CSA can be prevented. Recognising such an abusive situation is a skill that both parents and children must master. It can help them stay away from such situations. Understanding the concept of Safe Touch (ST) and Unsafe Touch (UT) is the first building block in overcome the menace”, explained Pushpa.

So just like a parent teaches the child traffic safety rules, they should similarly teach children about ST and UT, as well as the methods to take care of them.

“The child should be thus empowered to say ‘no’ to any action or touch that causes discomfort or unease to him or her. Parents, who are aware, can help a sexually abused child much better,” advocated Venkatraman. “It is of utmost importance to remember and remind the child that sexual abuse is not his/ her fault. Children will talk about sexual abuse only in an understanding and comfortable environment.”

Arpan’s road map for parents to help victims of abuse is by first recognising that child has been sexually abused.

“Then the child should be helped to talk about this experience. Finally, professional support should be sought help to heal the child”, advised Pushpa.

The victim should be helped to move on and live beyond the shadow of the trauma of sexual abuse with dignity.

“The child has the right to do so. If the intervention is not undertaken within two years of abuse, the suppressed memory is bound to play havoc in the latter parts of life,” she concluded.

One of the delegates, Kavita Nair Bhatia, said, “I am associated with an NGO. I attended the seminar in order to understand the identification part, as well as the right time for intervention”.